By Ella Walker
Fearne Cotton isn’t actually vegan. Shock horror. In fact, she is quick to note: “I bloody love an omelette.”
And yet, the 38-year-old has written an entirely plant-based, animal-free cookbook, Happy Vegan. In its introduction, she explains this isn’t a contradiction. Vegetarian from the age of 12, with a brief foray into pescatarianism in her 20s, she still cooks meat, fish and dairy for her family, and most of her baking involves eggs.
“I am a vegetarian who eats probably 90 per cent vegan.” Chickens arguably take the full brunt of the fact she’s not 100 per cent there; the most challenging aspect of going totally plant-based, she says, is not eating eggs. “I do love eating eggs,” she adds again, for good measure.
Then there’s the fact vegan options can often be limited at times. “If I’m out travelling with work, it can be trickier,” she muses, “so I may eat a little butter in those moments.”
Egg and butter-fuelled work trips aside, “more and more people are eating vegan and are up for experimenting,” says Cotton. Hence Happy Vegan, which she says is for “vegans; people that have never tried vegan; and those like myself, who eat a lot of vegan food but want to learn more”.
In terms of the recipes, “fun and easy” is her mantra – so don’t expect to have to go shopping for a vast array of new ingredients, or for a specific vegan larder. There are cauliflower steaks and tofu fingers, tomato dahl and vegetable kofta wraps, plus the odd recipe that might raise a few surprised eyebrows. Take her blueberry and cannellini bean tray bake with tahini and maple syrup icing, Cotton’s way of tricking her kids into eating more protein.
And she is particularly proud of her veggie black bean sausages. “I was dead-set on creating my own kind of homemade banger,” she buzzes. “They’re packed with flavour and so easy to make.”
Broccoli Katsu Curry
3tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1cm pieces
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1tbsp mild curry powder
1tsp garam masala
1/2tsp ground turmeric
1tbsp white spelt flour
400ml vegetable stock
2tbsp soy sauce
350g Tenderstem broccoli
100g fresh breadcrumbs
3 spring onions, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Brown rice, to serve
Put half the oil into a pan and place over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, garlic and ginger and cook gently for eight minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, taking care not to let anything burn.
Add the curry powder, garam masala, turmeric and flour and stir-fry for another two minutes until fragrant. Gradually stir in the stock and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened and the carrots are cooked through.
Using a handheld or upright blender, blitz the sauce until completely smooth, adding in a little water if it is too thick. Season well, to taste.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with foil or baking parchment.
Toss the broccoli in the remaining oil, to coat, and season well. Roll in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated, transfer to the lined baking tray and roast for 10-15 minutes until golden and the broccoli is cooked through.
Divide the sauce between your plates and top with the katsu broccoli. Scatter the spring onions on top and serve with rice.
Indian Spiced Potatoes and Raita on Toast
800g baby new potatoes
Olive oil, for frying
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 onion, chopped
3tsp ground cumin
3tsp ground coriander
1tsp dried chilli flakes
5 garlic cloves, crushed
5 spring onions, finely sliced
Small handful of mint, leaves only, roughly chopped
200g soya milk yoghurt
4 slices of sourdough or white bread
2 avocados, halved, stoned and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain thoroughly and cut into large bite-size pieces.
Coat the bottom of a large non-stick frying pan with olive oil and set over a high heat. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, onion and two-and-a-half teaspoons each of the ground cumin and coriander and half a teaspoon of the dried chilli flakes. Fry for about 12 minutes, flipping the potatoes every now and again, until golden and crispy in places. Reduce the heat, add most of the garlic and fry for another minute until aromatic. Remove from the heat and stir in the spring onions. Season to taste.
For the raita, mix together most of the mint and the yoghurt with the remaining garlic and spices, season to taste.
Toast the bread and top with the spiced potatoes, sliced avocado, raita and remaining mint leaves. Serve immediately.